Vote Early, Vote Often… With Your Boots

Yesterday was the most American square on the calendar, Election Day. On my particular ballot were prospective Senators, Congressmen, Governors, State Legislators, County Commissioners, Sheriffs, Secretaries of State, Auditors, Superintendents of Public Education, Treasurers, School Board Members, Conservation District Trustees, Fire Chiefs and Coroners. I read-up on each, filled in the appropriate bubbles, fed my paper into the machine and donned my flag sticker. Then I laced up my boots, grabbed my pack and my rifle, and went for a walk in the woods.

It’s that last part that I think matters the most.

“History is made by those who show up,” as Benjamin Disraeli put it. And of course that includes at the polls. So I dutifully cast my ballot for candidates who are committed to keeping public lands in public hands, investing in our wildlife, and defending against the threat of climate change. But, harboring no illusions that turning out on the first Tuesday following the first Monday of every other November is enough to protect the things that I love, or that it will ever be anything other than an uphill climb, I then showed up in the mountains too.

There are 728 days until the next election. The folks we’ve sent to Washington, the State Capital, the courthouse, the county office building and city hall will, for better or worse, do what they do until then. In the meantime, I’m going to keep voting.

I’m going to campaign for clean water by showing-up at the river, fly-rod in hand. I’m going to fight carbon pollution by inviting my duly elected officials to the duck blind (where I even promise not to make Dick Cheney bird hunting jokes). I’m going to vote for Wilderness by unplugging my kid and carrying him up the mountain.

One thing I love about hunting and fishing, wildness and wild places is that they take you beyond words. The ideas and opinions of our supremely conceptualized day-to-day lives fall by the wayside out there. What’s left in those moments is concrete and real in a way that is otherwise tragically elusive. Words are important; especially when they’re printed on a ballot. But they’re just no match for the hills and the streams. That’s why I’ll keep voting with my boots.

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